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251: St James, Piccadilly, London, England
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St James, Piccadilly, London
Mystery Worshipper: Bee.
The church: St James, Piccadilly, London, England.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1684, the church is a plain brick building with dressings of Portland stone (and a coffee bar attached). Wren's plan was basilical, with the nave and chancel forming one great room with a vaulted ceiling. The church website quotes Wren: "I can hardly think it practicable to make a single room so capacious, with pews and galleries, as to hold 2000 persons, and all to hear the service and see the preacher. I endeavoured to effect this in building the Parish Church of St James', Westminster, which I presume is the most capacious, with those qualifications, that hath yet been built."
The neighbourhood: In the heart of Piccadilly, surrounded by expensive shops, and opposite the Royal Academy.
The cast: Celebrant: Rev. Mary Robins. Preacher: Rev. Charles Hedley.
What was the name of the service?
Parish Eucharist.

How full was the building?
About one-third full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
I was wished a cheery "good morning" as the service sheet was handed to me.

Was your pew comfortable?
They were wooden pews that were OK for about an hour.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Eclectic: whispered chat alongside a singing practice.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Praise to God, the world's creator. Stand to sing."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Service sheet only.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
The purple Doc Martens worn by a server. I noticed them as he held the Gospel aloft during the procession.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Mainly traditional Anglo-Catholic. I haven't attended a church which still has a Gospel procession for many a year. Lots of friendly little touches were added to prevent it from being stiff-upper-lip.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
13 minutes. After the sermon, the roving mike took responses from the floor. This occupied a further seven minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
As it was Racial Justice Sunday, the preacher ran with the theme using a controversial piece in the Observer newspaper as a starting point: "The last days of a white world".

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The beautifully sung "alleluias" pre- and post-Gospel reading.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The notices. They went on forever. It felt as though almost the entire congregation had an announcement to make.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It was difficult to stand on my own. I had bumped into someone I knew before the service and she kindly acted as my chaperone.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Instant. I didn't see what else was on offer. My friend queued because I was bursting for the loo after such a long service (a whopping 1 hour and 40 minutes).

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5. I would like to give it more but the service was far too long for my fancy.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes it did. The sung responses were angelic, as was "De Spiritu Santo" sung by the lay singers.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I hate to say it, but it has to be those purple boots.
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